Physicians share their medical horror stories

By Physician Sense, for MDLinx
Published October 31, 2019

Key Takeaways

Who needs a horror flick when practicing medicine is frightening enough? Forget Tales from the Crypt. Here’s Tales from Beyond the Script.

AnMDLinx survey recently asked physicians to share frightening stories from their work. Two dozen doctors responded to the open-ended questionnaire, telling us all about terrifying patient encounters, hair-raising cases, and other medical horrors. 

We also asked for physicians’ supernatural stories, and surprisingly got only a few. Perhaps this doctor’s response explains why:

“Real life cases are much scarier,” wrote an allergy and immunology specialist.

Blood and guts

The doctors who responded to the MDLinx survey gave us enough blood-and-guts stories to fill a Rob Zombie movie. Some were quite long and others were, ahem, a bit short, such as this one from a surgeon who’s been wielding the scalpel for more than 25 years:

“Man with amputated penis,” he wrote.

An anesthesiologist shared her story, which offers a fresh take on the phrase, under the gun:

“I had to suture the face of one of the FBI’s most wanted while being surrounded by guns pointed at me and the prisoner.”

In the spirit of the ‘50s cult classic, The Trollenberg Terror, doctors gave us two crawling eye-variety tales. Don’t worry. They both have happy endings:

“A close friend of my daughter was in a horrible accident, with frontal lobe coming out of an eye socket,” a surgeon tells us. He continues, “After a 12-hour reconstructive surgery, she survived with no neurosurgical symptoms.”

“A patient was in a scrap with another lady, who pulled the patient’s eyeball out of its socket,” reports a 25-year veteran emergency medicine physician. “Everyone was excited, but I just walked into the room, established her vision was okay, sedated and anesthetized her, and with gentle gloved fingers, replaced the globe into the socket.” 

Nothing to see here, folks.

Accidents will happen

Patients do the darnedest things. Sometimes, what they do can be downright frightening. A psychiatrist with more than 25 years of experiences shared this story from his internship:

“Police came to the emergency room and told me to grab some IV bottles and accompany them to the railroad yard, where a drunk student who had just graduated tried to circumvent going around a stopped railroad train by crawling under it. While crawling under, the train lurched pinning his leg. The police brought me to the site where the student was lodged under the train, still conscious. Firefighters were unable to extricate him. I had to crawl under the train and place an IV using a flashlight in order to administer intravenous fluids and a narcotic.”

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